West Virginia in the Civil War

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Introductory article on West Virginia in the Civil War, by Dr. Mark A. Snell for the West Virginia Encyclopedia

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West Virginia in the Civil War

The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was born in Kentucky on this day 210 years ago-February 12, 1809. Lincoln served as President from 1861-65. He was President during the Civil War, arriving in Washington, D.C. before his term began with several southern states already declaring themselves seceded and forming the Confederate States of America. Lincoln pointedly told the South that he had no intention to attack slavery where it existed, only to prevent the institution from expanding to the west. As the war went on, though, Lincoln realized that the nation would never be able to come back together with slavery in place and that the United States needed to live up to the promises of its founding documents-the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It needed, in his words from the Gettysburg Address, "a new birth of freedom." He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863; this document both allowed black men to serve in Union military forces and established abolition of slavery as one of the Union's aim in fighting the war. Lincoln had plans for a postwar reconstruction of the nation that would provide safety and security for black Americans but also a lenient path for former Confederate states to re-enter the Union. But those plans died with Lincoln when John Wilkes Booth murdered him. Booth killed Lincoln to avenge the South; in fact, Booth killed the South's best friend. Reconstruction and the history of American race relations would likely be very different had Lincoln lived. ... See MoreSee Less

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